Why choose coworking spaces?: Creativity, Well-being and Loveliness (Ymlaen Week 1)

Ymlaen Placement Week 1

Short update: My first week has been a blast. And by that I mean it’s been so uplifting and good to spend time again around people who are creative, friendly and welcoming.

If this is awfully vague, let me explain:

Not-so-short update: In November (2017), I saw some tweets advertising a collaboration between Creative Cardiff and Rabble Studio for graduates looking for six months of funded desk space at Rabble Studio with mentoring from Cardiff University’s Enterprise team. I read the description, felt an unmistakable “that-sounds-amazing” twinge, but put off thinking about it seriously a whole week—because surely I wouldn’t get it anyway—until the day of the deadline where I thought, Well, yes, I won’t get it, but yes, I should apply. I need mentoring. I have no idea how to run a successful business, but these people do.

The coworking desk space was, in my eyes, a bonus. Who wouldn’t love to have the opportunity to meet more people and make new friends? Who wouldn’t love a space of their own? So, yes, excitement about cool people and desiring expert knowledge forced me to apply. So, I did. I went to an interview (and it overran by about 20 minutes), and later that week I heard I got it. I am the first Ymlaen placement and I’m working on setting up my own online creative writing magazine Lucent Dreaming. And that is where I am now!

This past week was the first of my placement and it’s already been so insightful. I’ve learnt so much about humanity, Cardiff, food and creativity. That being so, I thought it’d be worthwhile to log a couple of the things I’ve learnt and then go into some detail about why it’s been valuable:

 

Things I have learnt

  1. How to make crackers

    By crackers I mean the ones often eaten with cheese. It’s easier than you think apparently. It’s one of those things that makes a person realise, wait, there are all these skills waiting for me to learn them, so why don’t I?

  2. What makes someone lovely

    What makes people wonderful to be around is their ability to be open to other people, to conversation and to friendship; to take into consideration other people’s needs; and, really, to just be interested. There are lots of people in the world who, although very lovely to their own people, are not (or perhaps cannot) be as interested in others. This means their eyes glaze over amongst strangers and they feel they have only time for themselves. They are content with their lot.

    But I think that closes you off to so many opportunities. Being interested means good listening, and good listening means thoughtfulness and thoughtfulness is great for the world. Everyone I’ve met so far in and around this placement has been so thoughtful and open to conversation. I can’t recommend the experience of meeting them enough! I also cannot recommend being the kind of person who is open and thoughtful enough either. It’s worthwhile!

  3. The importance of coworking space and coworking management

    I arrived at the studio expecting it’d be much like a normal office where everyone is plugged into their work and conversation is minimal, but it’s a different feeling altogether. There is nothing… stifling. There is community and communication and conversation and lots of offers of tea and coffee. I was fortunate enough to sit in on a Coworking Collective meeting this Friday (the collective to be officially launched, I believe, in February). The meeting comprised of a bunch of fantastic people who manage coworking spaces and it made me realise how important management really is to their success, and the success of their spaces.

    Without the community encouraged and curated by the people who run coworking spaces, they wouldn’t last. If not for community, there would be no opportunity for collaboration, for something as simple as understanding the work of the person sat beside you, or on the other side of the room, for utilising their expertise, for learning and progress. It goes back to being thoughtful and interested too. The people at this meeting seemed to genuinely care about the well-being of their members as well as other stakeholders, including the city of Cardiff as a whole.

    You must know what it feels like to be around people who are warm. Or people who are genuinely interested in your well-being. You must once have felt the opposite? An ice-cold, or even lukewarm reception stifles the heart, I’m sure of it. It dismantles relationships and slowly erodes any sense of well-being. It’s true that if you don’t feel respected or valued, you don’t work as keenly, nor as enthusiastically as you otherwise might. I think attending this meeting (and being welcome to join) showed that in successful coworking places, beyond a financial co-dependency, there’s this mutual value and caring between the people using the coworking offices and the people who run them. Of course, mutual respect and value have the same effects elsewhere; showing you care about people and their lives just makes the world a better place.

  4. Valuing your own time as a creative person!

    My first week has seen the revival of drawing:
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    I’ve not drawn anything seriously for years. This might not seem significant, but it came alongside a mental shift. I’m finally feeling the value of creative work. During my first official mentoring meeting yesterday with Dan Spain (founder of Rabble Studio) and Sara Pepper (Director of Creative Economy at Cardiff University), I learnt how to make the most of social media scheduling in order to free up time for learning new creative skills, e.g. how to use Adobe After Effects. Now I’m appreciating just how much time I can reroute towards (re-)learning creative skills.

    In fact, one of the discussions in the studio this week was about people and prospective clients (unknowingly) undervaluing creative work. However, what was interesting about this discussion was its subsequent consensus among some of the Rabble about self-doubt. Asserting the value of your time and creative energy are valuable in the long run, but in an apparently saturated digital world where virtually (no pun intended) every skill is accessible, we have to remind ourselves it’s not just surface-level skill or expertise people are expending, it’s creative thought and it’s time, both of which are difficult to truly compensate.

 

This has been my week! I hope it made for interesting reading. I intend to make a blog post every month on my progress during the placement. Click for more information about Ymlaen and what I’m working on at Rabble Studio!

 

 

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2018 Goals

We are hours away from 2018 and the feeling of newness and hope is electric to me in ways it hasn’t been for a long time. The past few years I’ve been gunged in university deadlines and the gunge was quite distracting. I felt I had no time to pause and consider what I want aside from the very potent desire for the deadlines to be gone. This December I’m freer. I have (for the large part) only my own deadlines to consider, my own wants, ambitions and goals. But I have to remember something I didn’t know in 2014 (the last time I made real goals). I have to remember that many great things happen by accident. Everything I want to achieve isn’t necessarily what I need to achieve. And, even more than that, I cannot be overwhelmed by inevitable disappointments whatever happens. Almost everything is temporary.

 

My friend suggested I break my goals down into daily, weekly and monthly goals but this post is a general and abridged list of what I want to be, to do and to accomplish. The specifics will come later when I stop abandoning my laptop to consume books.

 

Abridged goals for 2018

 

  1. Write a draft of a novel
  2. Write a collection of poetry
  3. Write and submit a PhD application
  4. Be unafraid (of continuing to be frank and of trying things)
  5. Read 20 new books
  6. Launch first issue of Lucent Dreaming
  7. Establish Lucent Dreaming as a business
  8. Visit new places
  9. Only buy things you actually *love*
  10. Give everything you don’t actually use/love/require to charity

 

I think these are plenty to start with. I’ll go into detail about sections of my goals as they become relevant. My general plan is to write a poem every day, about 3 pages or 1000 words of any sort of prose a day, to read for half an hour on the train and/or before bed, and to spend about 3 hours every weekday on promoting and creating promotional content for Lucent Dreaming (and learning how to use photoshop and suchlike).

 

Although I wanted to say something insightful about goal-making and resolutions, everyone feels their own way about things like this. For some people, new year’s day is just another day and the new year is just another year, but I think ignoring markers of change and milestones gives little time for reflection. It’s only from reflection you can assess change and as much as I hate change, it’s valuable (and none of the above are particularly dramatic). This is all growth, growth I’ve keenly awaited. I hope I continue to find these goals meaningful, and if not, that they are replaced with things that will benefit the world as much as they might benefit me. (To love and to look after things are probably amongst the most meaningful things you can do.)

The Muslim Lifestyle, or, An exploration of Islam on the eve of Ramadhan.

Muslims are not always a good representation of their religion: Islam. This is why inside Muslim communities, you might refer to someone who is good at being good, knows the Qur’aan, and prays optional prayers as ‘Islamic’, while we ourselves are striving to be ‘good Muslims’. For me, at least, they don’t have the same connotations.

To be ‘Islamic’ is to be peaceful, educated, thoughtful, loving, charitable, while also doing the things that characterise a ‘good Muslim’ – that is praying and avoiding sin. To be Islamic is to be embody the religion, while to be a Muslim is to follow it.

If Islam means peace and submission of our will to God, then ‘Islamic’ seems to fit. But then comes the problem of terrorism and ISIS, i.e. the most awful physical manifestation of hypocrisy of religion and of language itself. As soon as ‘great’ came to be sarcastic, ‘fine’ to be an untruth, and ‘sick’ to mean amazing, we have descended into linguistic chaos. Society was suspicious before, but now concepts have come to mean their direct opposite.

Let me clarify my point: Islam does not mean violence. Islamic does not mean violent. I think we should remember that on the eve of Ramadhan. This month especially, we Muslims are striving to be more Islamic: more peaceful; more generous; more thoughtful; less violent in our speech, actions and thoughts; self-effacing; humble and ultimately aware of our privilege.

The Muslim lifestyle might seem alien in a world of self-love and body positivity. (Surely, Muslims are oppressed and they don’t see it?) But we advocate these ideas too. We appreciate our bodies as a gift – a functional and beautiful gift with which we can effect change, help others and help ourselves to be the most genuine, honest, kind and loving we can be.

And how do we explain modest dress and the like? Firstly, I’ll say we believe that both men and women should be dressed modestly, and secondly that our conception of self-love and body positivity is based on the idea that we do have the agency to choose what people see of us and that we are made beautiful. Everything we do or don’t do is a choice. We put personality above appearance because we cannot help what we look like, the colour of our skin, the shape of our nose, the size of our feet, everything. Your internal beauty overrides your external beauty. However, my case for external beauty is this: we share our body with planet Earth. Have you ever seen someone happy in a landscape photograph look ugly? We are made of the same stuff as Earth.

Internal beauty reflects externally, always.

Indeed, before the mass culture of photography and portraiture, people were not solely remembered for their beauty or looks, but on what they produced, what they did, who they were and what they left behind. And this philosophy is found in Islam, too.

But I digress.

Ramadhan is upon us. I’ve heard it described as an intense training session or detox for the mind. We are spending this time, this whole month, improving our personalities; our connection with the world and its people; and above all, the one we believe created all this. No matter your view, this month represents self-improvement of the most significant kind. If we can give up food and water for daylight hours, we can surely give up worse things: self-hatred, addictions. If we can be so motivated as to change our habits and improve ourselves, maybe, just maybe, we can also change and improve our world.